Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, and is often seen as more modern than its Middle Eastern counterparts. We would hope, then, that if Islam is to become more moderate, Indonesia would serve as a bellwether for that change.
Sadly, it seems to be the opposite. As reported in Thursday’s New York Times, One province, Aceh, established full sharia law 15 years ago, and the rest of the country seems to be following suit.
In Aceh, women are required to dress modestly, alcohol is prohibited, and numerous offenses — from adultery to homosexuality to selling alcohol — are punishable by public whipping.
Here’s a guy about to be publicly whipped for “dating outside marriage”. Now I’m not sure if that’s adultery, but whatever it is doesn’t deserve public shaming.
The NYT further reports:
In the decade and a half since, Indonesia as a whole has drifted in a conservative direction, and Aceh, once an outlier, has become a model for other regions of the country seeking to impose their own Shariah-based ordinances, alarming those who worry about the nation’s drift from secularism.
“Whenever Aceh issues a law, saying it’s the highest order of Shariah, it provokes others to do the same thing,” said Andy Yentriani, a former commissioner on Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women, who wants the national government to repeal certain Shariah-based regulations as violations of the Indonesian Constitution.
A recent study found that more than 442 Shariah-based ordinances have been passed throughout the nation since 1999, when Jakarta gave provinces and districts substantial powers to make their own laws. These include regulations concerning female attire, the mixing of the sexes and alcohol.
Before Aceh instituted sharia law, there were discos, alcohol, and the sexes intermingled freely. The discos and booze are gone now, and sexes sit apart at any public gathering. And things don’t look like they’re getting better.
Islamist leaders from outside the province are hoping to push things further here. In late December, Rizieq Shihab, a firebrand preacher who leads the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, a national organization that led the campaign to have Jakarta’s Christian governor prosecuted on blasphemy charges, gave a fiery speech before a crowd in Banda Aceh.
“When Islam first came to Indonesia it entered through Aceh, correct?” he asked the crowd. “Correct!” the crowd thundered back.
“Aceh is a model for the entire Indonesian nation,” the preacher continued. “It must become the locomotive for the movement to apply Shariah law throughout Indonesia. Agreed?” he asked the crowd.
Is there any Muslim-majority country in the world becoming more moderate and less Islamist? I would have said Turkey a few years ago, but that was before Recep Erdoğan and his dictatorial incipient theocracy. I can’t think of any nations that fill the bill. It looks like Islam’s oppression of gays, apostates, atheists, and women will continue to grow, and, as I’m not a cultural relativist, that’s something frightening to contemplate.
h/t: Diane G.